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Virtual Vermonter - Old Rockingham Meeting House

 

 

Construction on the Old Rockingham Meeting House (off Route 103 in Rockingham) was started in 1787 or 1788 to replace an earlier building. It was completed in 1801, and was used for both religious and civil meetings. Today it stands as the earliest public building in Vermont in nearly original condition.

The following description of the Meeting House is from its National Register nomination:

The 2-1/2-story, wood frame building, with a low stone foundation, is clad in clapboards and has a gabled roof sheathed in slate (added during the 1906 restoration). The main mass of the Meeting House is rectangular with enclosed "porches", or stairways, at each gable end. Following traditional meeting house form, the principal entry is in the center of the long side of the rectangle, and is directly opposite the pulpit.

The main (south) facade is 7 bays wide. The centrally located door surround has fluted Doric pilasters supporting a heavily molded entablature surmounted by a triangular pediment with a modillion cornice; the door is double leaf. The flanking first floor windows have molded heads; the second floor windows have plain surrounds and butt the entablature. All the windows are double hung and measure 6' x 3' with 20/20 sash and retain many of the original lights. The building has a modillion block cornice with returns but no corner pilasters.

The rear (north) side, overlooking the Rockingham Burying Yard, is also 7 bays wide. The first and second stories contain 6 windows each, with the same detail and spacing as the main (south) facade. Centrally located, and mid-way between the first and second floors, is a round headed, double hung window which frames the speaker on the interior. This side also has a modillion block cornice with returns.

The five-bay east and west gable ends are identical, each having a central 2-story projecting gable-roofed "porch" or stairwell. The porch is flanked on each side and at each of the two floor levels by two 20/20 sash windows with molded heads like those on the north and south facades. A window with the same detail is in the gable peak of the main block.

The porches at the east and west gable ends have no windows on the north sides. Each has a 15/20 sash window with a molded window head at the first floor level of the gable end; a simplified version of the main front door on the south facade below a 15/20 sash window; and a simple molded cornice with returns.

The interior of the Meeting House is in restored condition (see Statement of Significance). Around the perimeter of the space are 24 box pews which are raised a step above the main floor level. In the center are two groups of 6 box pews which are separated from the wall pews and from each other by an "alley" or aisle. Each box pew seat 10-15 people. Between the center pews and the pulpit are six long benches and in front of the pulpit is a narrow enclosed pew for the deacons, tithingmen and other church officers.

The pulpit, centrally located along the rear (north) wall, is 9 feet above the floor and is reached by stairs on the left (west) side. Above the pulpit and affixed to the wall is the original sounding board.
The gallery, around three sides of the Meeting House, has about 3/4 the floor space as the first floor. This level is reached from the stairways in the enclosed porches at the gable ends. Here there are 24 box pews with three rows of narrow benches in front; the floor of the gallery slopes downward.

The interior of the Meeting House is painted white with the box pews, benches, pulpit, pulpit window and sounding board unpainted or unvarnished natural wood. The window sash, plain surrounds and gallery face are painted a flat light gray-blue.

Providing interest to the severe interior of the Meeting House are the turned spindles in the pew rails, the raised paneled gallery, the pulpit and the round headed window behind the pulpit which is enframed by fluted pilasters supporting an entablature, and the sounding board.

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To find out more about the Rockingham area, including lodging, dining, other attractions and more, stop by The Virtual Vermonter - Rockingham.

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